When we speak of general phenomena in a certain genre and community, we tend to forget that behind our ideas or trends lie individual bands. All of these have their own contexts and motivations for creating their albums and these often lead them to fall outside of the mean. Even if that doesn’t fit our models or wishes, we should take a good, hard look at them and ask: “what exactly isn’t working here?”. This is the case with Electric Wizard’s newest release, Time to Die. With brilliant releases this year by other doom/stoner bands, like Pallbearer, Yob and Earth, the expectations were set high for this release. However, it sadly doesn’t fit our story of a “Doom Revival”. It falls short of the epic canvases set by these other bands and, indeed, by Electric Wizard themselves.
The problem with this album is not in the music itself, specifically. The production fits the genre, with the drums being crisp yet somehow fuzzy, the guitars laden with feedback and the vocals drawling their smoke-shrouded intonations. There are a few brilliant track as well on this release, like the meandering and crushing ‘I Am Nothing‘. Here, what was expected from the entirety of the album is displayed: broad strokes of a song, filled brimful of intense riffs that require every second of your attention. Little plays on noise and silence that set the groove and behind it all, a massive bass front backed by the drums.
However, tracks like this or opener ‘Incense For The Damned’, are outnumbered. Instead, the band have taken a different approach for the rest of the album. Starting with ‘Destroy Those Who Love God’ and continuing all the way to the end, Electric Wizard have chosen to infuse much more rock into their patent mix. Songs like ‘SadioWitch’ or ‘Funeral of Your Mind‘ sound more like Black Sabbath with a slight tinge of doom rather than what we’ve grown to love over the long Electric Wizard career, namely Black Sabbath buried under layers of feedback and emotion.
Now, these tracks are not necessarily bad. One can and should certainly expand his mind for veteran bands trying new things and approaches to their sound. But this transformation doesn’t feel authentic or even that interesting. Take Yob’s recent album for example. The difference in sound there, while certainly off putting at first, serves a great emotional theme and feels full of integrity and vision. The difference here feels forced, as if the band had to, for some reason, tinker around with what they do best, just for the sake of change.
To be honest, it’s hard to keep the surrounding releases out of reviews. On some objective scale, every album should be considered under its own merit. However, this is unrealistic and frankly, doesn’t capture well what music is all about. It’s possible this album would have gotten a slightly (slightly!) higher score in a year not so well endowed with great releases in its genre. But with those kept in mind, Time To Die seems to be stepping in place: it tries too hard to modify a well established sound and without clear vision of where it’s going, it falls short and remains non distinctive if well executed.
Electric Wizard’s Time To Die gets…